GRA reform will not impact the quality of sex data collection in Scotland
The GENDER recognition reform will have “no impact” on the quality of sex data collection in Scotland, MSPs have been told.
Dr Kevin Guyan, a researcher at the University of Glasgow specializing in the intersection of data and identity, was asked about how the Scottish Government records gender in data collection during a testimony session of the Holyrood Committee.
Guyan clarified that there are already practices in the public and private sectors where the “vast majority” of questions about gender allow respondents to self-identify.
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This is in line with guidance given by the Scottish Government ahead of the census, which told transgender Scots they could respond differently to gender on their birth certificate whether or not they had a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) .
Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton quizzed Guyan at the Equalities Committee session about the differences between the collection of gender data in Scotland and England and Wales in the current census.
Guyan pointed out that England and Wales were “deviating from the status quo” by setting guidelines that told respondents to answer based on their birth certificate or GRC, unlike Scotland.
He told MSPs: ‘When we look at how people respond to a question about gender, whether it’s a census or any other data collection exercise, for the vast majority of the population , it is estimated that more than 99% of the population, whether the question is about sex or gender, whether it is legal sex, biological sex or self-identified sex, for 99% of the population, they will answer the question in the same way.
Guyan added that the different approaches to Scotland and England and Wales will only affect “a fairly small number”, adding that most people don’t read the instructions for the question and “just answer “.
He added: “So I’m not currently worried about a huge discrepancy in the number of accounts between Scotland and then the rest of the UK.”
Later in the evidence session, Hamilton claimed that due to the Gender Recognition Act, introduced in 2004, public bodies “refuse or fail to collect data based on gender”.
She continued: ‘I wonder if the bill itself will exacerbate this problem because do you agree it could become a problem as we move forward?
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“It’s a difficult question because if you take the age down to 16 and people’s opinions and experiences are based on certain points in their lives, whether it’s a job or whether it’s savings, pensions , all those sorts of things, there’s a lot to do.
“And I’m just wondering if you think it’s important that we know our discussion here today that you think this data should be collected on a gender basis, as well as maybe you’re talking about a gender base so that we can actually create good politics.
Guyan asked for clarification, adding: “Are you able to elaborate on the impact of a perceived negative impact of the GRA on public sector equality duty reporting? I couldn’t find any source or proof of this myself.
Hamilton then referred to the gender pay gap, which she had raised earlier in the session, adding: ‘And all the other issues I raised with you today about how we go through our lives in terms of that definition which shapes the political public and creates services, and provides aid.
Guyan replied: “Let us emphasize again that the way we collect gender data in Scotland does not require that a person has or does not have a GRC.
“In any case, whether working in the public sector, collecting employee data for gender pay gap reporting, participating in a survey or research exercise – none of these questions ask what is on your birth certificate or your biological sex or whether or not you have a GRC.
“So in my view the reform bill has no impact on how we currently collect data in Scotland.”